PHL POLITICS Southern California Fil-Am Leaders Rally Behind Sen. Grace Poe as Senate Tribunal Affirms Ruling Supporting Her

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LOS ANGELES (via PhilAmPress/MTVi)) —Several Filipino-American leaders have rallied behind presidential frontrunner Senator Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares following the Commission on Election’s Second Division decision disqualifying her in the forthcoming 2016 presidential elections. 
This as the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) upheld its earlier decision affirming Senator Poe’s status as a natural-born Filipino citizen, thus validating herlandslide victory in the elections for senator in 2013 in which she garnered over 20 million votes .
The neophyte senator disclosed that SET affirmed its original ruling and dismissed the motion for consideration filed by defeated senatorial candidate and now presidential aspirant Rizalito David, who was deemed to have failed to submit new evidence or arguments against her.

The SET, composed of three Supreme Court justices and six senators, had ruled that Poe is a natural-born Filipino and is qualified to serve as senator of the Republic.

Poe immediately lauded the wisdom of her colleagues, who “as lawmakers do not only consider technicalities but also the intent of the law.” She added: “This is also a victory for the more than 20 million Filipinos who voted for me in 2013.”

Senators Vicente Sotto III, Cynthia Aguilar Villar, Lorna Regina Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Bam Aquino and Juliana Pilar Pia Cayetano voted in favor of Sen. Poe, pointing out that foundlings born and raised in the Philippines are not considered naturalized or stateless, but natural-born citizens of the country and deserve due entitlements, services and protection from the state.

“Like you, foundlings have the right to serve the country,” said Poe. “Tuloy pa rin ang trabaho natin sa Senado. Pero marami pa ring hamon na dapat nating pagtagumpayan (Our work continues at the Senate, but there remain challenges to triumph over).”

SET’s final decision on Thursday, Dec. 3, came out two days after the Comelec’s 2nd Division ruled that there were “material misrepresentations” in the presidential candidate’s COC with regard to residency and thus was disqualified to run for president in the 2016 presidential elections. Poe had appealed the ruling to the Comelec panel and the Comelec en banc.

Poe’s camp has consistently argued that statements made in her 2013 COC do not and should not be held binding, as the Supreme Court has previously decided in a separate but similar case.

Poe urged Comelec to look beyond the COC and consider the other pieces of evidence that her camp submitted to prove her “fact of residence”, such as passport markings, tax identification number, purchase of property in the country, and enrollment of her children in Philippine schools.

Another piece of documentary evidence presented by Poe but apparently ignored by the Comelec division, was a questionnaire Poe accomplished at the US Embassy, where she stated that she ceased to reside in the United States as early as 2005.

Her lawyer George Garcia said, “this, among others, proves that the senator had no intention to lie or mislead in her COC.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a lawyer and a senatorial aspirant, welcomed the SET decision standing by its original ruling to junk the disqualification case against Poe.

“This decision strengthens the fact that she is indeed a natural-born Filipino citizen,” Colmenares said. “This is also shows that the complainants have not presented any new evidence to prove their case,” he added.

In Los Angeles,  The Grace Poe for President Movement-North America issued a statement of support for Senator Poe. The group  led by Lino “Jun” Caringal Jr. Arturo Garcia and Larry Pelayo stressed that the Comelec is doing a great disservice to democracy, not only to Senator Grace Poe but also to the 20 million Filipinos who voted for her in 2013, as well as the millions of Filipinos residing in the Philippines and overseas.
By adopting the “politics of exclusion,” the Comelec has arrogated unto itself the power to disenfranchise a candidate who has already been voted upon by the people. 
“We will appeal her case up to the Supreme Court if necessary and make sure that the people are not deprived of their sovereign right to choose their own President on a mere technicality,” said Caringal, a former Navy Captain and the president elect of the Pangasinan Brotherhood-USA.
He added that the essential part of an “ideal” representative democracy is competitive elections that are fair under an atmosphere of freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press that allow eligible citizens to be adequately informed and able to vote according to their own interests.
JFAV National Coordinator Arturo Garcia said, “We call on Senator Grace Poe to remain steadfast and fight for the inherent and fundamental right of every sovereign Filipino to choose their leader. The fight for Presidency goes on. Our determination has been made stronger by blow after blow of legal maneuverings her opponents resort to, to get her out of the race even before the official campaign period begins. 
“We are saddened that the political contest for the presidency in our motherland has deteriorated to a point when all front-running opposition and independent candidates are subjected to vicious demolition projects as if those in power are the only ones with the franchise to hold on to political power,” he said. (PhilAmPress/MTVi)

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